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Primary Source: Winning World War 1 By Fighting Waste at the Grocery Counter

Can a particular kind of retail furniture help grocers save money and prevent food waste? In a World War I era trade catalog, Sherer-Gillett Co. promotes a piece of furniture designed for grocers to install in their stores. It was called the Sherer Counter, a bulk food storage system described as a way to cut down on waste and help with the war effort.

Let’s take a closer look at how Sherer-Gillett Co. encouraged the use of this counter for grocery stores. As shown below, the front cover of this catalog includes a quote by the U.S. Food Administration encouraging people to buy food with thought.

Then as we open this 1918 catalog, we are greeted with a quote by Sherer-Gillett Co. It also appears to be the title of the catalog. It reads, “buy food by the pound-not by the package.” This leads us to believe that Sherer-Gillett Co. encouraged the purchasing of food in bulk.

Next, we move on to the foreword. There, we learn this catalog was sent “to those who are ‘carrying on’ in food conservation.” Printed in 1918 during World War I, the catalog encouraged people by remarking, “it is pleasant to find that one’s daily vocation is in line with winning the war.”

In these introductory pages, we discover this catalog appears to be focused on preventing food from being wasted and saving money for both the customer and grocer. To accomplish this, Sherer-Gillett Co. suggested food be sold and bought in bulk. The catalog mentions that food was frequently bought by the package but suggests dry goods might be suitable to sell by the pound. Some examples include cereals, dried fruits, crackers, cookies, beans, peas, and other similar types of food. However, the catalog also acknowledges the fact that some products, such as liquids and perishable foods, are more easily bought by the package.

Read entire article at Smithsonian